Skip to content

Posts from the "Transportation Policy" Category

No Comments

Mica: “The Focus of the Bill Is on the National Highway System”

The cover page of the GOP plan document. A mess of empty rural highways: is that the new direction they want for federal transportation policy?

First, to recap:

The transportation reauthorization proposal that House Transportation Committee Chair John Mica unveiled yesterday (sans legislative text) calls for $230 billion over six years, cutting 33 percent out of current spending levels. The plan maintains the current 80/20 split between highways and transit funding, supports state infrastructure banks in lieu of a national one, and expands the popular and oversubscribed TIFIA loan program.

Why a Six-Year Bill

At yesterday’s press event to roll out the bill, Mica and other House members explained their commitment to a six-year bill, in contrast to the Senate proposal of a two-year bill.

“We want long term bill,” Mica said. “We heard across the country that our state secretaries of transportation want some stability.”

Richard Hanna, the vice chair of the Highways and Transit subcommittee, contended that the stimulus failed to boost employment significantly because “shovel-ready,” short-term projects don’t create many jobs.

“By passing a six-year transportation bill, this committee will provide the states and transportation agencies with an established stream of federal funding that will allow them to take on major projects,” said Hanna. “Given this predictability, states will be more comfortable taking on bridge replacement, highway interchange improvements, etc. These are projects that provide jobs for two or three years, not two or three months.”

Without the assurance of a long-term bill, Hanna said, “states will continue to put off major construction projects.”

Read more…

No Comments

Boxer: Two-Year Transpo Bill Will Save 600,000 Jobs

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, says a transportation reauthorization bill needs to be passed soon in order to avoid the loss of 600,000 jobs in the construction and transit industries. She issued a call to action this morning, pushing for a new bill before the current extension of SAFETEA-LU expires on September 30.

Sen. Barbara Boxer tells reporters nearly 500,000 construction jobs would be lost if the House cuts transportation funding. Photo: Alice Ollstein

Though she had initially pushed for a six-year bill, Boxer made it official that the EPW proposal is for a two-year bill that will only cover current funding levels plus inflation—about $109 billion over the two years. She said the Finance Committee is “very optimistic” that it can find the needed $6 billion per year in addition to the Highway Trust Fund revenues. There are “various ways to get there,” she said, but her preferred method is to redirect funds from the expensive wars abroad.

“We are now spending $12 billion a month in Iraq and Afghanistan,” she said. “We need $12 billion over two years. We are winding down those wars. It seems to me there’s a lot of funding available for this. It’s a very small amount compared to what we’re spending every month.”

At today’s press conference, Boxer focused mostly on the urgency of saving 500,000 construction sector jobs and 100,000 transit jobs, citing new Federal Highway Administration stats about the ramifications if Congress passes Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget, with its 30 percent cuts to transportation. Boxer’s aides pulled out charts detailing just how many jobs would be lost in each state, and Boxer pointed to the over 43,000 that her home state of California would shed.

“People just think you can say, ‘Oh, we’re going to cut 30 percent or 20 percent or 50 percent’ and they don’t really look at the ramifications,” she said. “Here are the ramifications: In my home state, 43,000 families would be devastated. And the nation’s bridges and highways are not going to be in any way considered safe, because with that tremendous cut we can’t do the things we need to do to keep up with our needs.”

Read more…

No Comments

Rumor Mill: House Leadership Hostile to Transpo Reauthorization

A few weeks ago, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor published his list of bills the House will attempt to get through before the August recess. The transportation reauthorization was not among them.

Rumor has it House Speaker Boehner doesn't want to deal with the transportation bill. Photo: AP/Charles Dharapak

Rumor has it that House leadership has put the kibosh on Transportation Committee Chair John Mica’s plans to get a bill out of committee and to the House floor in July. Supposedly, House Speaker John Boehner has told Mica not to mark up a bill, since it would just languish without a vote anyway.

This information came to us from a trustworthy source who is a few levels removed from the actual decision makers. (Streetsblog has a request in with Mica’s office to confirm.) Because it’s a compelling rumor that makes a lot of sense in the current political context, please indulge us as we run through the possibilities, but do take it with a grain of salt.

All will be clearer next week, when Mica either introduces his bill or he doesn’t — though even that won’t tell us everything, because introducing it and then keeping it stalled in committee would also likely be an acceptable option for leadership — as long as it doesn’t come to the floor.

All this is happening, of course, against the backdrop of the debt ceiling talks, as they rage (or whimper) on, with no solution in sight before an economic meteor (known as “default”) hits the planet. House Republicans are still saying they won’t accept any new taxes, leaving spending cuts as the only way to cut $1 trillion from the deficit. Their recipe for transportation? About a 33 percent cut, bringing transportation in line with current balance in the Highway Trust Fund. (The new formula bars spending based on anticipated revenues.) There’s not a state in the union that wouldn’t feel these cuts, deeply.

So, if it’s true that Boehner has said no to the reauthorization, it actually makes a lot of sense. The House can’t pass a bill with such low levels of spending – there wouldn’t be any support for it. But the Republicans can’t possibly introduce a bill that violates their own spending principles right now, as they’re digging their heels in on spending cuts as a pre-condition to raising the debt ceiling.

Read more…

2 Comments

Deteriorating Transit Service Will Leave Bay Area Seniors Stranded

There are a lot of disturbing numbers in Transportation for America’s new report, “Aging in Place, Stuck Without Options.” It says the Bay Area currently has the best transportation access for seniors, but points out that in the coming years a rising number of people over age 65 will live in neighborhoods where transit service is either poor or doesn’t exist.

“In just four years, 62 percent more seniors in the San Francisco metro area will live with poor transit compared to 2000, versus 56 percent more for Oakland metro area and 66 percent more for San Jose metro area,” notes a press release from TransForm, an Oakland-based non-profit advocating for transit and smart growth.

In San Mateo County, as an example, 1 out of 4 residents will be over the age of 65 by 2030, and the number of people over the age of 85 will increase to two and half times the current number, according to the San Mateo County Health System. Sixty percent of baby boomers are projected to have more than one chronic disease, while nearly a third will be obese, and 25 percent will have diabetes.

“If we want to have healthy seniors, we have to invest in reliable, frequent and safe public transportation systems so that people can get where they need to go without a car,” said Jean Fraser, the San Mateo County Health System Chief. “If we develop our communities using the 8-80 rule — so sidewalks, bike lanes, streets, buses and trains are safe and welcoming to kids aged 8 and seniors aged 80 — we will keep both our seniors and our children much healthier.”

As Congress prepares a long-term transportation bill, transit advocates say it’s important that residents urge their representatives to adopt policies to ensure that seniors “remain mobile, active and independent.”

“The situation is already acute in the Bay Area, with annual transit cuts and growing demand,” said Stuart Cohen, the executive director of TransForm. “But now Congress is threatening to further slash funding and take away our flexibility to spend it on our greatest needs; more than ever we need Senator Boxer’s leadership as her committee finalizes the six-year transportation bill.”

Following T4A’s easy link to send a letter to Senator Boxer. More coverage at Streetsblog Capitol Hill.

No Comments

Boxer: Transpo Funding Will Rise in Senate Bill, Bike/Ped Will Be Preserved

Senator Barbara Boxer, chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, just addressed reporters about the progress of the transportation bill.

Barbara Boxer said dedicated bicycle and pedestrian funding will still have a place in the federal transportation bill. Photo: Planetizen

Rather than holding funding at SAFETEA-LU levels, as we previously reported and as the EPW statement indicated, the committee is planning a $339.2 billion bill – current spending plus inflation, plus an expanded TIFIA loan program. That’s $56.5 billion a year. Boxer said the Senate bill would guarantee funding for bicycle and pedestrian programs, which had been in doubt.

TIFIA is currently funded at $110 million a year but demand has far outstripped the availability of loans. Boxer’s committee is proposing to increase that funding nine-fold, to $1 billion a year. She says that amount could leverage $30 billion a year in private investment. They also plan to increase the maximum federal share from 33 percent to 49 percent, with even more favorable terms for rural areas. The TIFIA program will keep its name but be folded into a new, larger program called America Fast Forward.

She’s still leaving open the option of an infrastructure bank, which she says she supports, but she’s always prioritized an expanded TIFIA program over an I-bank, mostly because she believes a program that already exists makes more sense than a brand new one.

Boxer said that including the $30 billion she hopes TIFIA will be able to leverage each year brings the bill over $500 billion – close to the administration figure. (Of course, the administration had leveraging mechanisms in its bill as well, notably the infrastructure bank, and didn’t include the private investment “leveraged” by those entities in its final number.)

She said her committee told the administration, “If you can show us the money, we’re happy to look at it,” but that “right now there isn’t any, so we’re going with what we think we can get through the United States Senate.”

Rep. John Mica, chair of the House Transportation Committee, has “different pressures,” Boxer said, including a House that has voted to use transportation funds for other purposes, but she added that they’re working closely together on the bill.

Boxer is “hoping for a six-year bill” but acknowledged that “we may not wind up with a six-year bill.” Still, she said that while a two-year option was very much “in the mix,” the committee wants the policy changes they make to take effect for six years. According to Boxer’s staff, if they pass this bill as a six-year bill, there will be a $12 billion shortfall every year as compared to Highway Trust Fund revenues. As a two-year bill, there’s a $6 billion annual shortfall. The committee is open to general fund transfers to fill that gap. The bill could also be three, four, or five years, of course, though those options are rarely mentioned.

Read more…

No Comments

Senate Transportation Bill, MAP-21, Freezes Spending at Current Levels

The Environment and Public Works Committee just released an outline of some core principles of its transportation reauthorization bill. In a statement, the top Republicans and Democrats of both the full committee and the Transportation Subcommittee – Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), James Inhofe (R-OK), Max Baucus (D-MT) and David Vitter (R-LA) – said:

Sen. Barbara Boxer indicates the Senate transportation bill will hold spending to current levels, hints it will be a short-term bill. Photo: Bumpshack

It is no secret that the four of us represent very different political views, but we have found common ground in the belief that building highways, bridges, and transportation systems is an important responsibility of the federal government, in cooperation with state and local governments and the private sector.

They say their bill, called Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21):

  • Funds programs at current levels to maintain and modernize our critical transportation infrastructure;
  • Eliminates earmarks;
  • Consolidates numerous programs to focus resources on key national goals and reduce duplicative and wasteful programs;
  • Consolidates numerous programs into a more focused freight program that will improve the movement of goods;
  • Creates a new section called America Fast Forward, which strengthens the TIFIA program to stretch federal dollars further than they have been stretched before; and
  • Expedites project delivery without sacrificing the environment or the rights of people to be heard.

Nothing about an infrastructure bank, which is likely still a major sticking point. We’ll also be interested in hearing more about their decisions about transportation enhancements – those “beautification” projects the Republicans love to rail against, also known as bike and pedestrian infrastructure. We also wonder how much EPW has worked with the Banking and Commerce Committees so far to work out the language on transit and rail.

The joint statement indicates that Boxer may be softening her insistence on a six-year bill. They specifically say, “Our goal is to attain the optimum achievable authorization length depending on the resources available.” Sounds like a two-year bill to me, if they’re shooting to maintain current funding levels. And we already know that sounds like a two-year bill to Max Baucus, chair of EPW’s Transportation Subcommittee and head of the Finance Committee, which the four senators say they’re collaborating with to explore options for the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund without increasing the deficit – i.e., without transfers from the general fund.

We’re still not expecting to see a completed bill for a little while… the initial Memorial Day target has been pushed back to “sometime in June.”

No Comments

Senate Finalizing Transpo Bill — It’s Up to Boxer to Preserve Bike/Ped Funding

According to Congressional insiders, members of the Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works are meeting today and tomorrow to hash out the details of their proposal for a multi-year transportation reauthorization bill. Hanging in the balance of these negotiations may be the federal government’s only programs dedicated to funding infrastructure for biking and walking.

Bike and pedestrian advocates are urging supporters to contact Senator Barbara Boxer today to tell her to retain dedicated funding for active transportation in the Senate transportation bill. Photo: CNN Politics

Advocates are rallying supporters to contact Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-California), and urge her and other senators to retain federal funding for bike and pedestrian programs.

Jeffrey Miller, president of the Alliance for Biking and Walking, says this marks an urgent opportunity to preserve funding for those important programs. “Senator Boxer is frankly our last hope,” said Miller. “If we don’t act now, dedicated funding for biking and walking programs may be written out of our transportation system for the next six years.”

The Senate occupies the key middle ground between the House GOP and the White House. House Transportation Chair John Mica (R-Florida) has indicated his desire to eliminate the federal commitment to bike-ped funding. While the Obama administration has repeatedly signaled its support for bike-ped programs under the banner of livability, if dedicated funding for bike and pedestrian projects isn’t preserved in the Senate version of the bill, there is little hope that they will reemerge in the conference committee process and get into the final bill, Miller said.

Biking and walking advocates are concerned that Boxer, who has generally been supporter, is being pressured to compromise and eliminate the programs, said Miller. Both the Alliance and the League of American Bicyclists are calling on their members to email Boxer, thank her for her past support and urge her to continue federal support for bicycle and pedestrian programs.

“At this very moment, she is negotiating with other senators who don’t think bicycling and walking are an important part of the transportation bill,” said Miller. “She needs to know we have her back on this issue and she shouldn’t give up on these crucial programs.”

“Transportation Enhancements, Safety Routes to School, and Recreational Trails are important programs for transportation, safety, and health that have a huge impact on the funding available for bicycling and walking projects,” said Bike League director Andy Clarke. “It is critical that these programs are included in the Senate draft. Otherwise, it will be nearly impossible to add them later in the process.”

Streetsblog LA 12 Comments

State Considers Restricting Parking in Transit Oriented Districts

A.B. 710, the Infill Development and Sustainable Community Act of 2011 introduced by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) would mandate that automobile parking in Transit Oriented Developments be limited to one car per residential unit or per 1,000 square feet of retail space. The Assembly Housing & Community Development Committee is scheduled to hear this legislation at their next meeting on April 27.

Nancy Skinner.

The benefits of capping the total amount of car parking, or at least reducing the requirement to build parking, in developments near plentiful mass transit is probably obvious to you if you’re reading this article. Reduced car parking insures that the people living in the T.O.D. will be the one using transit and the new developments will actively reduce the number of car trips made in the area. But there are other benefits as well. By reducing parking mandates, the cost of new development construction goes down, meaning projects for lower-income and transit-dependent populations become more economically doable. AB 710 also provides some flexibility to local jurisdictions that may require higher minimums if written findings are made based upon substantial evidence in the record including a parking utilization study.

Despite the dramatic changes this legislation could bring to development patterns throughout the state, the legislation hasn’t received a lot of attention. An Internet search of the legislation brought up a few bill summaries, a resolution opposing the legislation by the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, and a blog post by American Institute of Architects, Los Angeles Chapter’s, Will Wright supporting it.

Wright explains how A.B. 710 supports the state’s smart growth and emissions reduction goals approved by the legislature and Governor Schwarzenegger in recent years:

Read more…

No Comments

House Transpo Committee Promises Bipartisanship, To Tackle Aviation First

Ranking Member Nick Rahall presents Chairman John Mica with a new gavel to run the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Ranking Member Nick Rahall presents Chairman John Mica with a new gavel to run the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Meet the new House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

The committee’s meeting this morning, the first of the 112th Congress, included twenty new Republican faces, 19 of whom are freshman representatives. The mostly administrative agenda didn’t offer many chances for the committee members to talk policy, but even some of the freshmen’s short introductions proved potentially revealing.

Chair John Mica and Ranking Member Nick Rahall each forcefully restated his commitment to keeping the committee running on bipartisan terms. “This has been one of the most bipartisan committees and it will continue to be,” said Mica. In a rhetorical reach across the aisle, Mica also used the president’s State of the Union call to invest in transportation as a springboard for his own remarks.

“There’s no Republican bridges, there’s no Democratic bridges, there’s only American bridges,” said Rahall. He urged committee members to “stand together, even against party leadership if necessary,” to keep partisanship out of their work. He even serenaded Mica with a one-day-early rendition of Happy Birthday.

More importantly, both Mica and Rahall agreed on a proposed schedule for the committee: as previously reported, aviation reauthorization will come before the surface transportation bill.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the surface transportation bill is being abandoned. “We’re going to get the darn thing done,” promised Mica. He also announced that the committee will take a listening tour across the country in mid-February to gather ideas from across the country. “I’m going to be as flexible as a Barbie doll,” said Mica.

Read more…

64 Comments

N-Judah Transit Bulb Proposal To Go Before SFMTA Board Next Week

This new rendering shows 9-foot sidewalks instead of the previous 5-foot ones. Image: SF Planning Department, City Design Group

This new rendering shows 9-foot instead of 5-foot sidewalk extensions. Image: SF Planning Department, City Design Group

A proposal [pdf] to significantly improve sidewalk conditions for N-Judah riders in Cole Valley is headed to the SFMTA Board for approval with some modifications. As we wrote in November, the current sidewalks on Carl Street at Cole and Stanyan can’t accommodate the thousands of passengers who use the stops daily, so riders waiting for trains often stand in the street, and are forced to weave through parked cars to board.

The proposal has been revised and would extend the sidewalks by 9 feet on all three proposed transit bulbs on Carl Street (see the photo below the break), which “allows seamless boarding of trains.”  On the southwest side of Carl and Cole, the inbound bulb would stretch for 113 feet instead of the original 165 feet. The entire length of a two-car train is about 150 feet.

The SFMTA said it reduced the length of the longer inbound bulb to alleviate concerns about the loss of parking, which will translate into giving back one parking space. As it stands now, four parking spaces on that section would be removed, and the proposal itself would allow for the removal of a total of eight spaces on Carl. Some neighbors remain concerned about removing those spaces and continue to oppose the plan.

Read more…